Growing with Grief

I’ve been in two minds about whether to share this but it’s mental health awareness day and to be honest the last couple of weeks I’ve not been in a good headspace at all. Strangely it all came to a head yesterday.

At the beginning of the month, I looked out the bus window and saw my sister. I stared so hard knowing it wasn’t her but unable to look away. I felt a pit form in my stomach as thoughts disappeared, replaced with the harsh reminder that she was gone.

I told someone the other day that Zana passed away two years ago but it wasn’t, it was three. That’s how confusing time gets when it’s wrapped up in grief. Life moves on so fast and you have to move with it so you don’t get left behind, but some things feel like they happened yesterday. Some memories, when you allow them to float back into your mind feel so close it hurts. A friend told me grief starts as a huge boulder that crushes you with the weight of it, but after time it smooths into a pebble that you keep in your pocket to take out when you can. Most days I feel like I’m getting there but October is so fucking hard. I forget how hard it is and then as soon as it starts this weight comes back and the closer it gets to the day she passed the more I search for distractions.

I went to church with our other sister iFemi at the end of September and when she sang it was so beautiful. I was so proud (she doesn’t sing in public often) but the second she started I thought about how much I wished Zana was sat next to me watching her…I didn’t think I’d be able to stop crying.

Then yesterday I just broke. I got the masters back for my EP and I’m so happy to have them, so proud of the songs, but also heartbroken that she’ll never hear them. We’ll never be able to talk about all the things I know she would have also experienced. About being mixed race, a woman, being labelled difficult when holding a line. It would be a lie to pretend we were close, we weren’t but I keep thinking about whether things would be different if she was alive today. Now that I’m older…maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t; it’s almost harder to think about the potential. We thought we had more time but I’m still so thankful for the last months we did have.

She didn’t take shit from anyone, never tried to shrink away from who she was. Six foot tall and she wore the highest heels you’ve ever seen; hair and makeup on point whether she was going to the club or the corner shop. Listening back to my songs I can’t help but think about whether she would have liked them and whether she’d have been proud of me. It is so much harder than I’d fathomed promoting an EP written for/about strong black women when the strongest one I knew will never hear it.

She wasn’t treated kindly by this world. It didn’t give her the love and support she deserved and I wish desperately that others would have seen her the way I did. Misunderstood maybe, but strong and beautiful, kind and soft when she felt she could be. I remember reading an interview with Ibeyi who were talking about how it feels to perform songs they wrote about their dad and an older sister who had passed away. They said it was difficult but that every time those songs were performed, they brought them back to life. That’s how I’ve been trying to look at things. Every time I need to feel brave I wear something of hers. A ring, a necklace … I wore a pair of her heels at the video shoot – I walk like Bambi but fuck it, I wanted her with me.

So for anyone struggling with mental health stuff – whether it’s an everyday state or a trigger; grief or just general sadness, you’re not alone. If you feel like you can’t get out of bed because it’s all too much, that’s ok. If you feel guilty for putting on a brave face because you can’t let yourself go there, that’s ok. If you just need to sit and cry or scream or watch something stupid to make yourself laugh so you don’t cry or scream – it’s all ok. I’m trying really hard to recognise when I’m spiralling and I’m under no disillusions that that’s where I’m at right now, but I’m also trying to be kind to myself about why.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s reached out, it’s gratefully received. I’m trying to distract myself whilst not leaving the house so it’s an interesting balance. Anyways, here’s to my sister Zana, not always putting the pretty foot forward and knowing it’s ok to not be ok xxxx

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